Provocations trigger tension in east Med: Defense Minister Akar
Despite Turkey’s “positive and fair” approach, provocative attitudes are raising tension in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean seas, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told his Italian counterpart Lorenzo Guerini, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The Turkish and Italian defense chiefs met on Oct. 9 in Rome to discuss bilateral and security issues as well as the latest developments concerning Libya and the eastern Mediterranean.
The minister told his counterpart that Turkey favors good neighborly relations and dialogue solutions in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean when it comes to international legal issues, according to Anadolu Agency.
Stressing that Turkey and Libya share a history going back to half a millennium, Akar said, “Turkey will continue to make every effort for stabilization in the North African country and the region. It supports a stable, independent, and sovereign Libya under relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
Turkey and Greece have been at loggerheads over territory and undersea energy resources for much of the year, although the two sides agreed last month to hold exploratory talks. Tensions over natural gas rights escalated in August when Turkey sent a seismic survey ship and a small navy flotilla into contested waters near a Greek island close to Turkey’s coast.
Turkey ordered the ship back to port for routine maintenance last month, but not before both sides held military drills and the EU threatened sanctions on Ankara.
The Turkish and Greek military officials were in talks for reducing the risk of conflict and accidents in the Aegean and Mediterranean under NATO auspices. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had announced the establishment of a 24/7 mechanism between the two sides to ease the tension.
The Turkish and Greek foreign ministers met on Oct. 8 on the sidelines of a conference in Slovakia and agreed to set a date for the start of a new round of exploratory talks and meetings for confidence-building measures between the two. The brief meeting held was the first of the highest-level talks between the two NATO neighbors since the tensions erupted over the eastern Mediterranean energy rights.
On the day when the two countries met, the Greek army had issued a new NAVTEX, an advisory to sailors, in the Aegean Sea to carry out a shooting drill on Oct. 29, Turkey’s National Day. In response, Turkey said it would also hold a shooting drill on Oct. 28 in the Aegean Sea.